Greetings my fellow fantasians
It’s always great being a Burnley fan whatever the result, but this week has been extra special. This week’s photo is of Vincent Kompany with the Championship trophy and his proud dad. The ornate silver trophy, first awarded to the Football League Champions in 1891 and used continuously until 1992, this trophy is also known as ‘The Lady’ due to the statuette that adorns the top.
Top of the pops in gameweek 35 was Michael with 54 points, followed by Scott (51) and Tudor (42). Nationally, top points score was 107 with some really odd team picks – Porro, Benrahma and Ramsdale in nets, with Salah 30 captain points. First week in the month so Michael heads the running for the May Manager of the Month. Overall, Michael has nipped back in front of Aleksa – 2,342 points to 2,327 – with Tudor in third (2,270) looking like a two-horse race, although anyone in the top eleven can still win it, can’t they?
I’ve not stopped giggling on the pearls of wisdom I unearthed from last weekend’s post-match press conferences. Roy Hodgson: I’ve been in this game a long time and you have to put the ball in a net at one end and keep it out at the other end, so we have to tidy that up. This one won it hands down. Mikel Arteta said Arsenal’s aim is to win the game. That’s an ambition that ranks one step above José Mourinho’s We’re going to try to win the game and miles clear of Brendan Rodgers’ frankly timid The first job is to score one more goal than the opposition, each game.
On a sunny Friday morning as I trawled through Leeds, Everton and Southampton squads looking for bargain benchers, I’m sure like me you burst into the lyrics of that Smiths song which naturally started jangling in your head Do you think you’ve made the right decision this time? on the appropriately titled 1987 B-side London. In terms of making the right decision, I’ll be sticking with Everton is something Jordan Pickford said this week, as rumours of a move to Man U surface. I like the way we play, he said, presumably a conclusion reached despite watching a defence keeping him extra busy. I like the new stadium too. He’s easily impressed architecturally.
Oh Manchester, so much to answer for. Another Smiths lyric. The Big Cup Semi-finals are at half time and City stand on the cusp. You’d have to be populating a very niche intersection on the great Venn diagram of life not to have found City’s result uplifting for Pep. While it may not have matched the nerve-shredding white-knuckle ride of last season’s thriller at the Bernabéu in terms of excitement, Tuesday night’s semi-final first leg between Real and City had dram and controversy, leaves the tie finely poised before what one hopes will be a nerve-shredding white-knuckle ride at the Etihad next week.
Completely dominated by their visitors for the opening 36 minutes, Real bided their time before going ahead through a Vinícius Júnior surface-to-air screamer from distance that threatened to rip the goal-net from its moorings, only for City to restore parity courtesy of a low-trajectory Kevin de Bruyne howitzer somewhat against the run of play, after the hosts had begun to dominate. In a game that saw countless fouls by Real go unpunished, City’s equaliser proved a bone of contention Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian’s fabled eyebrow did a passable impression of the Wembley arch when he was shown a yellow card for protesting that it should have been disallowed because the ball had apparently gone out of play down by the touchline, not so much in the build-up, as the build-up to the build-up.
The Striking Viking was shackled by Rüdiger, and the Norwegian automaton had one of his quieter nights in a City shirt. But while Haaland the Younger had a conspicuously uneventful evening, the same could not be said of Haaland the Elder. His dad, Alfie, found himself tightly marked by a couple of Bernabéu security guards who escorted him from his VIP box after he was spotted goading Madrid fans in the wake of City’s equaliser and reported to have thrown peanuts at them. Whether Alfie will be getting up to any shenanigans in celebration next week remains to be seen.
I have no allegiances to any team in the Premier League at weekends and so when results come in, I do laugh outloud so hard at time. Last weekend I got through three pairs of trousers and now require sodium supplements. But there are limits even to my nihilism. I’m not so far gone that I don’t realise good people are hurting. So this weekend I’ll be enjoying Soccer Saturday hoping Jeff and boys talk in the tone adopted by Gary Lineker on MoTD in the wake of United’s last two 0-1 league defeats, a delivery so sombre it made Richard Dimbleby’s commentary on the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill sound like the chorus of a Smiths tune….Heavens knows I’m miserable now springs to mind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjPhzgxe3L0 Happy melody from Johnny and sad lyrics from Stephen.
As an ageing Maths graduate, I am pleased to follow the basic maths used by Ignacio Palacios-Huerta to illustrate his claim that Liverpool have exposed the limits of xG (‘expected goals’ – but you knew that). Check this out: https://understat.com/ Huerta published a table last year showing how the Premier League would have finished if it were decided by xG. According to xG Man City should have won the title by 13 points. So, might Jürgen Klopp have exposed the limits of nerdery?
xG is one of many metrics used in football analytics. It has also become a focal point in the debate about how far the magic of football can be distilled into numerical form. So, when an xG league table looks so far off the real thing, people start asking questions. There’s stuff Liverpool do that’s not in the expected goals model. City scored 102 goals and had 35 against and were blowing teams away.
They always keep their foot on the gas. The depth City have coming off the bench during the restart is just insane. Arsenal, as good as they are, don’t have that depth. So, they have learned to be able to manage games better than City. Once they get that second goal, they defend well but probably don’t spend so much time exhausting themselves on the pressing side of things. Check the stats on the link above – City control the ball and possession, that’s really what separates Arsenal from City.
Let’s imagine football is suspended for a season, and some of our current and former Premier League club managers were schoolteachers, what would they be like?
- Sean Dyche. Deputy Head. Scariest bloke in the school. Frightens the teachers as much as the kids. Got a reputation and lives up to it. Likes a drink on the staff night out.
- Pep Guardiola. Head of Philosophy. Refuses to teach anything but top sets. Gets all his kids into Oxbridge. Always the snappiest dresser in the staff room. Most of the Sixth Form girls have a crush.
- Roy Hodgson. Should probably have stopped teaching ten years ago. He taught your dad and your grandad. Great on parents evening. The school wouldn’t be the same without him.
- José Mourinho. Uncle José. Seems a bit grumpy from the outside. But once you’re in his class, you realise he’s a good bloke. Tough but fair. Good banter. But don’t get on the wrong side of him.
- Ole Gunnar Solskjær. The class is on fire. The school is on fire. Everything’s on fire. Looks like a sixth former. No influence or control. He looks like he could cry.
- Mikel Arteta. Can he teach? Doesn’t matter. Was Head of PE for a long time. Trying to make a name for himself now he’s got his own job. Rumoured to dye his hair.
- Eric ten Hag. Head of foreign languages. Lovely guy, very cultured. Big on twitter. Always organises the annual trip to Holland. Colleagues wish he’d tidy up his beard.
- Jurgen Klopp. Headmaster. Turned the school around. Head after head came and went. But it was Jurgen that managed it. Loved by staff, students, and governors. Can get wild at the Christmas bash.
Came across this in my bookmarks. Are you a better manager? Therapy and help is at hand to wrestle with your decisions, and with a touch of the ‘look away now if you don’t want to know the score’…with this lovely system: https://www.game-change.co.uk/2017/08/28/fantasy-football-what-if-machine/ Put in your team code – it’s a six-digit number – to see what would have happened if you’d done nothing compared to all your furious machinations, scrambling and slicing for transfers.
So, onto gameweek 36. Defenders? Ah, Bank Holiday Mondays, the BBQ, the traditional cavalcade of woefully overdone sausages, dangerously underdone chicken legs and ill-advisedly getting stuck into the beers. And this Monday the glorious chaos of inexpert barbecue chefery was matched by the glorious chaos of inexpert defending in the Premier League, with 21 goals squirted across three fun-packed affairs like a deluge of lighter fluid across a rack of uncooperative briquettes.
In the early kick-off, as the coals began to flame and a few exploratory sausages were sent to a fiery grave, Leicester added another lowlight to their season of shambles at Craven Cottage, a 3-5 reverse flattered by a couple of late goals as Fulham eased off the throttle. It’s been one of those seasons sighed James Maddison, stretching that particular idiom beyond its usual boundaries. And, with grills up and down the land hitting that minuscule window of just the right temperature, Everton sensed the moment for their annual late-season relegation swerve, running riot beating Brighton 5-1 in the most unlikely result of the day.
In the evening game, with the ashes cooling and the optimistic throwing on a couple of baked potatoes wrapped in silver foil which nobody wants, and no one will eat, Forest followed the Toffees out of the bottom three with a 4-3 victory over Southampton, leaving Saints in need of a miracle and Rúben Sélles pondering his future. I would be happy to be here for the next 10 years he sobbed, very much sounding a man unlikely to be at the club much longer than the next 10 days.
So, pick your defenders wisely! Transfer deadline is 11am Saturday. The Smiths back catalogue, great tunes for staying in listening to whilst drinking alone and picking your Fantasy League team. And don’t get me started on the genius that is Johnny Fuckin’ Marr https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTOnc2ETSZ0
Good luck and good listening!